Here’s my guide – basically my experience having a baby here. Hope some of this helps a pregnant mama out there!
CHOOSING A GYNAE vs HOSPITAL
Do you choose your gynae or go with the hospital you like and choose from the doctors working there? I chose the former. It made more sense to put my labor in the hands of someone I could trust who would respect my wishes rather than be swept away by some of the glossy hospitals in Singapore. Also, the specialist emergency natal equipment is all in the PUBLIC hospitals, so really it doesn’t matter which private hospital you use, Singapore’s health care system is excellent across the board.
My first port of call was internet research on online forums like expatliving.com.sg and sassy mama. People are incredibly frank online in a way they aren’t always in person, and the same questions always came up – does the doctor make you buy packages, is there always a queue of patients in his waiting room, are the nurses friendly? So I was on the lookout for these things as I continued my search.
I was only able to meet two doctors before deciding because they charge you consultation fees each time, and they perform an ultrasound each time too. Based on glowing internet reviews and two colleagues who had both gone with him, I chose Dr Paul Tseng at TLC Gynaecology Practice (based in Thomson Medical). I decided that I wanted to have as natural and medication-free a birth as possible and was told that he was one of the few doctors to advocate this. Plus I kept meeting random people (taxi drivers, friends of friends) who had glowing things to say about Thomson.
I found Dr Paul to be very professional and friendly, as were the nurses working in his office. His waiting room IS usually packed, but one tip is to go right after lunch, its always quiet then.
Compared to the other doctor and those in my online research, his fees were reasonable and he doesn’t make you buy a package, you can pay for treatment as you go along which I liked. A consultation is between $85 to $100. However, something that became irritatingly apparent is that every detail of the consultation is noted down by the nurse in the room with him, and asking an extra question or not can make the difference in your bill! So don’t be afraid to query your bill before paying.
Dr Paul is known for preventing tears during labour by doing a perineal massage to stretch the perineum. He was pro my natural birth classes and signed my birth plan without any issues. For those main reasons, I would definitely recommend a consultation with him if you want epidurals to be a last resort and caesereans to be an emergency procedure!
However…I was told two weeks before my due date that Dr Paul would be on holiday and he did in fact miss my delivery! So unfortunately I can’t say whether he lived up to his great reviews. My boy was delivered by Dr Benjamin Tham who was very gentle and I was very happy with, but I did in fact need that perineal massage lol!
For my next baby 🙂 I don’t think I’ll be using Dr Paul. His consultations are too rushed and this became unacceptable after the baby was born and I needed to talk about how I was healing, feeling and what to expect. I felt there was very little CARE, as though the baby was out and job done. I would happily go for a doctor with higher fees who helps you mentally with the recuperation process and gives you information about what to expect. I can only imagine the lack of support for women with the baby blues. Now there might be nothing abnormal about this to the average Singaporean woman who goes into a 40 day confinement and hires a confinement nanny to care for her daily needs. But for me, I really appreciated England’s NHS, with it’s health care visitors that check on you and weigh your baby a few days after your delivery.
So when choosing an ob-gyn make sure their approach aligns with what you need, compare consultation fees, get as much personal recommendations as you can and make sure you tell the doctor to inform you personally if their holidays clash with your due date. If it does, find out who will be covering for them and do just as much research because it may be the backup who handles your delivery when it’s crunch time.
I have much higher praise for Thomson Medical. The nurses there were amazing, especially the night nurses. No request was too small – fluffing pillows, helping with the baby, asking a zillion and one questions. And the premier single suite was beautiful, very comfortable and spacious. My only critique would be the food. I wasn’t too impressed with either the Western or confinement food options. I think hospitals should be nutrition conscious, offering brown rice and brown bread instead of starchy white rice and sugary loaves, especially when you’re paying for it! That said, there was one dish I enjoyed – a papaya and fish soup. It was delicious.
Another source of annoyance was the hospital reps who kept dropping by to sell me all sorts of sentimental crap. Some of it worked on me but the prices were a huge turnoff. $150 for baby passport photos that cost $9 in Lucky Plaza!
So beware of all that. It’s irritating just as you’re trying to recuperate and get your strength back.
CHOOSING A PRENATAL CLASS
We did our classes at Parentlink, a organisation run by doula Angelyn Seet-Loh rather than at Thomson. Most hospital prenatal classes are rather perfunctory, giving you the most basic of information, probably because they’d rather you left all the thinking and decision making in the hands of the doctor. That definitely didn’t swing with me! I wanted to understand every detail of labor, how the body works, what actually causes the pain, what type of pain to expect etc. Hubby and I also came to the decision to have a natural birth, believing it was in the best interest of our baby.
He SO didn’t believe I could do it without painkillers – epidurals or gas – but I proved him wrong – haha! Jokes aside, it was tough and he was my birth coach and did an amazing job. All this was thanks to Angelyn and The Bradley Method. You prepare your body with the right nutrition and exercises, watching tons of videos and most importantly daily relaxation practice to teach your body to release and surrender while the contractions go nuts.
I’m so happy we did it and I think what Parentlink does is amazing and so different from the norm in Singapore. Ive had a taxi driver ask me why I don’t just have a Caesarean! Lol. It’s seen as a totally normal option rather than the major surgery it is. So for women who are concerned about medical interventions and painkillers going to their baby, Parentlink is a Godsend. They have all sorts of classes – prenatal yoga, hynobirthing, infant massage and baby first aid.
Angelyn even stopped by the hospital after the baby was born, and made an emergency home visit at midnight to help me with breastfeeding! She really loves her job and is a great support for pregnant and new mothers, whether you go natural or not.
I hired Sharon, Parentlink’s postpartum doula and she was wonderful. She gave me massages, opened up my lymph nodes, helped me buy a breast pump, got me breast shields, a sling, and cooked me papayas and red date soup!
I’ve tried to keep this post short. There are lots of other things I could write about so if you have any questions pls drop me a line in the comments.
I also have to mention my osteopath Stephen Watts at Orchard Clinic, who helped me get over sciatica, so much so that it didn’t recur during labor or since! So if you’re looking for a man with healing hands, check him out.
Next week, I review my favourite prenatal massages and online maternity shopping.